Mar 7, 2012

[Geekdom] How I Learned to Respect Batman

As a kid, I first got into comics through Spider-Man, since he seemed like the perfect example of the nerd being granted new strength and abilities, thus somehow vindicating his being an intellectual. I probably didn't think of it in precisely those terms, but on many levels I could relate to the character. And I stayed true with Spider-Man for many years, at least up until The Clone Saga sort of ruined him for me.

Like any other kid, I had know about Batman for quite a while. I had watched the old Super Friends TV show. I had caught re-runs of the 1960's Batman TV series starring Adam West. And I had watched the Tim Burton Batman movies, although the folks didn't let me watch every single part of the them the first time around. But it wasn't until may pre-teen years that I finally got around to reading the Batman comics themselves, and that really changed my outlook of the guy as a character.

And oddly enough, I have my mom to thank for this.

Thus in an attempt to participate in more local blogging events, I'm writing this entry as part of Fully Booked's The Dark Knight Reborn Blogger's Challenge, which I think counts as my first attempt to enter a local blogging contest. If anything, the topic seemed appealing enough and I think this might be a fun writing exercise as a whole. And with DC Comics artist David Finch arriving in the country this month, it seems like a cool idea to "join" the celebrations in this way.

At this point, I can't precisely which Batman-relate comic books I read first, but it's a toss-up between the Grant Morrison run of JLA or perhaps the Batman story arc Knightfall-Knightquest-KnightsEnd. And there's quite the story here.

The Grant Morrison JLA revamp was an interesting one that brought us a solid team of 7 of the DC Universe's most powerful heroes working together. Almost all of them were augmented by superpowers or perhaps exotic artifacts like in the case of Green Lantern. But as it was significantly stressed in the first comic book arc involving an invasion of Earth, Batman was painfully human.

But as the very first story arc seemed determined to prove, there's a reason why Batman is one of Earth's greatest heroes despite the lack of superhuman abilities. In fact, all the other heroes get neutralized by their enemies, leaving Batman to use only his wits and physical abilities (which remain impressive, but still human) in order to deal with their adversaries. And not only does he help liberate the rest of the Justice League, it's Batman with his human (yet highly trained) brain that figures out who their enemies really are, and thus how to defeat them. I remember reading that book and quite literally feeling my jaw drop as I read Batman utter the words "Read when you are." Now that's a hero with real guts!

You see, a lot of us in the family collected comic books back in the 90's. And while I was the Spider-Man guy while my dad was collecting the (then) new JLA and the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern run, it was my mother who was the Batman fan. Apparently she had been collecting the books back in her childhood and during that time she decided to pick up the hobby yet again.

So assuming JLA was my first encounter with just how awesome Batman is even among significantly impressive heroes like Superman, it was through my explorations of my mother's Batman collection that I really gained an appreciation for what this guy was capable of. In the Knight Saga arc of stories, the writers went on and broke Batman's back as a way to defeat him and yet still we saw him rise above his physical limitations and take on the cowl once more.

Sure, this was already a post Death of Superman world where we had seen Superman die and come back to life almost magically, and thus it was almost certain we'd see Bruce Wayne as Batman again. But then this time around, the writers did their best to keep things plausible and consistent with the kind of character that Batman is. His return to the peak of human physical fitness was not an easy, and this extends to his emotional state among other things. But still he manages to "beat death" and take back Gotham. Overall, it was a pretty cool experience.

Since those years of reading my mother's comics books and catching animated shows like the Cartoon Network run of Justice League or reading more recent Batman comics documenting his return from Earth's past as a consequence of Darkseid's Omega Sanction, more and more I've found new reasons to be impressed by what this one man in a funny suit can do. He's quite the inspiration for anybody since he represents what the human race is capable of should we truly push ourselves to our limits both physically and mentally.

Batman is indeed a superhero given how he goes beyond what is expected of "ordinary" people and yet manages to accomplish so much in his quest to fight injustice and crime. His utility belt is not filled with alien technology. His detective skills do not come from super-intelligence. At the end of things, he will always be a guy dressed up as a bat. He has trained to the best of his ability to become one of the best hand-to-hand fighters in the DC Universe. He has trained his mind to remember key details and quickly formulate critical analyses of crime scenes and enemy plans. He is indeed the kind of person that you could potentially be inspired by to learn many of his skills in the hopes of being more like Batman in everyday life.

And this oddly echoed what I loved most about the Dune series of Frank Herbert. These books remain my favorite above all others and through those six books Herbert also paints a picture of how far humanity might go unencumbered by machines and other artificial means of augmenting our knowledge and abilities. But Batman didn't even have the benefits of the spice melange - he's just amazing on his own.

So I'm thankful that my mom turned out to be a Batman fan, otherwise I would never have come to appreciate just how amazing he is as a character and the odd role model me might play for some people, assuming we're not solely talking about inspiring folks to don costumes and become vigilantes. I continue to be quite the fan of a man who is clearly the ultimate human being (even if only from a fictional sense). And if you've ever thought that he's just a guy in a suit (and I admit I have done this as well in the past), then hopefully this little post will act as a good illustration of just what makes him great along with some titles that you might want to explore to better understand the Bat.

And if you're interested in the coming David Finch visit on March 11-13, 2012, be sure to check out the official Fully Booked site for more details.
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  1. I love Batman too! The latest DC animation "Justice League Doom" proves how powerful he can be :)

  2. Ack, I don't think I've watched that one yet.

  3.  It's the latest animation from DC. It's based on the "Tower of Babel" storyline.

  4. Yeah - I had loved the original comic book story, so was initially a tad worried about the quality of the cartoon.